starring Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy
written by Steve Martin
directed by Frank Oz
This is an interesting, but a little empty-headed light comedy. Please notice that the director is Frank Oz. Thirty years ago, with puppeteer Jim Henson, Oz launched Sesame Street and the Children’s Television Workshop on American Public Television. Even now many people think of him as the voice of Kermit the Frog and Fozzy Bear. But he has appeared as an actor in several films and has directed many exceptional movies himself. So, he is not a silly puppet guy, but a serious and talented director.
Bowfinger, set in Hollywood, is a movie about making movies. That’s interesting. Steve Martin plays a wannabe movie director, Bowfinger, working out of a ramshackle house with a cast of wannaabe actors whom he keeps employed with constant promises that he is “this close” to the Big Deal that will seal their futures in the Business.
With a horrendously awful script entitled Chubby Rain, Bowfinger knows he is at the end of his tether. His plan is to get Hollywood’s top action star, Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) to accept the film, and that way pull enough money into his operation to bring him out of the dismal hole he is in. Ramsey refuses because, firstly, Bowfinger is an unknown, a nobody. And, second, because the script is garbage.
Not deterred, Bowfinger returns to his office where his staff are waiting to learn whether or not they will be saved by a big star agreeing to do the project. Bowfinger lies, claims that he landed Ramsey, but that one condition of his contract is that he never wants to meet face-to-face with the rest of the cast. This is passed off as just another example of the idiosyncrasy of stardom, but it sets off a chain reaction in which Bowfinge has to tell one lie aafter another in order to keep the trick going. It is a classic comedy gimmick.
Bowfinger’s plan is to have it so that his actors ‘accidentally’ come up to Ramsey on the street, or in restaurants, etc., and say their lines in front of him. This will all be filmed using zoom lenses from a safe distance, and then it can all be cut and edited later, with appropriate sound and dialogue laid over.
The result is hilarious. Ramsey thinks he is going insane because strange people keep coming up to him and saying the strangest things. He doesn’t know that he is being filmed.
For a few close-ups Bowfinger has to find a Ramsey look-alike. Eddie Murphy plays a secondary character, an unknown look-alike of himself. One of my favorite scenes is when Bowfinger convincers the dim-witted substitute to run across a busy freeway, which he does huffing and puffing and scared within an inch of his life. But just for the sake of looking professional Bowfinger decides that he has to shoot it again and he does - successfully.
Imagine every poor acting job and sub-standard make-up and special effects you have eve seen in the worse third-rate movies - movies like Plan Nine From Outer Space, or Santa Claus Conquers the Martians - and that is what the finished Chubby Rainlooks like. But in a strange twist that tells us something about popular tastes, Chubby Rain becomes an instant hit as a cult film.
Bowfinger gets his career boost, but not in Hollywood. He is invited to Taiwan to make cheap kung-fu movies. To Americans, Asian movies are almost always the very definition of cheap crap.
Watch for Robert Downey, Jr. appearing in a small role.